Arrival of Goodwill store on Solano prompts concerns

Solano Avenue

Goodwill Industries is planning to open a 5,000 square foot store at the top of Solano Avenue and some area merchants are concerned it will drag down the shopping district’s image.

Goodwill is hoping to move into space formerly occupied by Front Row Video and The World of Dance studio, according to Allen Cain, the director of the Solano Avenue Association. Goodwill would knock out the wall between the spaces to create a large store that will sell used clothing, furniture, and home goods.

The new store would fill two of the 11 vacant storefronts on the two and a half block stretch of Solano that rests in Berkeley. Still, some merchants don’t think a Goodwill store is a good idea.

Carol Fabrietti, owner of Ideas 4 Elements, which has been on Solano Avenue for 22 years, says she does not want Goodwill opening on the avenue.

“We want to bring people back to Solano. But we want to attract upscale customers, and this isn’t the way to do it,” she said.

Alaina Palega, who moved her Solano Kids consignment store into the block near The Alameda just six months ago, is worried that drop-off donations will be unsightly and will mar the street’s image.

“It’s going to cause a lot of junk being left, dropped off in doorways,” said Palega. “It’s just not fitting with the street.”

Palega is also worried that a large Goodwill, which is a non-profit, will squeeze out local antique stores and used clothing stores like hers.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of small businesses that are here,” said Pelaga, who has set out a petition on her counter to protest the Goodwill store. “We have a lot of consignment stores and antique stores. It’s going to kill a lot of small guys. So you are going to trade four or five stores for one big store.”

Hannah Hernandez, who has owned and operated Hannah’s, a kid’s used clothing store for 16 years, is not worried. Goodwill generally just puts its donations on racks and customers have to paw through massive amounts of clothing to find good things. She offers a different experience to her customers.

“The service I provide is culling all the junk,” she said.

Goodwill has had discussions with Berkeley about the new store, but has not yet formally submitted a revised application, according to Claudine Asbagh. (The company had previously applied just to use the World of Dance Space.) But combining two stores will trigger a public review and hearing.

Solano Avenue, long one of Berkeley’s most vibrant shopping districts, is struggling in this depressed economy. Numerous stores, including the Oaks Theatre, have shut down and a few more announced this month that they were going out of business, said Cain.

Part of the problem is the continuing high rents in the area, said Cain. Rents run $2 to $5 a square foot, with the average rent on the east end of Solano running at $3 a square foot.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Cain, who blamed the high rents not on local landlords, but property investment groups and landlords who don’t live nearby. “Downtown San Francisco near Union Square is $5 a square foot, so how can we be charging 75% of (what landlords get) in San Francisco?

Rent is not the only issue. Sarber’s Cameras, which has operated at 1749 Solano for 35 years, is giving up its lease at the end of March. The space is larger than needed and its design makes it difficult to remodel, according to Jessica Sarber, whose family has owned the business for 49 years. The company, which has another branch in Montclair Village in Oakland, is looking for a new space but will not necessarily remain in Berkeley, she said. One of the spaces the company looked at was on the stretch of Solano Avenue in Albany, which seems more active than Berkeley, according to Sarber.

Fabrietti, who owns Shoes on Solano as well as Ideas 4 Elements, is well aware of the malaise that has affected Solano Avenue. She is planning to combat that by closing Ideas 4 Elements and reopening it again in March with a new type of store that will “create curiosity”.

“We had an option to close permanently but we don’t want to add to the number of vacant storefronts,” said Fabrietti. “We want to bring some excitement to the avenue and hope other business owners will put resources towards doing that too. We have a built-in audience for that in this neighborhood where property prices are high.”

Nikki Mercer, one of the sales people at Ideas 4 Elements, said she doesn’t even know what the new concept will be. Fabrietti wants to make it a surprise, which might add to the buzz.

“The reason for our remodel is that business has been so bad,” said Mercer. “People are just not shopping on Solano.”

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  • name withheld

    Sadly, I’m sure none of the posters with righteous opinions actually run a business on Solano. Probably none of them sweat it out to pay the rents and the costs of the labor that supports the people who work in businesses on Solano. None of them have had to lay off employees because they didn’t have the money to pay them. None of them have put their personal money- everything- into keeping a business afloat on Solano Ave, only to find that they will have to pay their rent next month with a credit card. None of them know or care about how difficult it is to have a small business on Solano. Don’t take your frustrations out on these business owners. Goodwill is a very BIG business and can afford to pay Solano rents for such a large location. No other business on Solano is even close to being that big. Everything seems backwards.

  • I lived one block away from Solano for 18 years of my life, and it’s sad to see the current state of the street. With so many empty storefronts, especially on upper Solano in Berkeley, any tenants should be welcomed by the business community. Even a Goodwill store is better than empty storefronts for business. I don’t recall such a huge uproar when CVS opened their store in Albany, and they are essentially a big-box retailer (granted, the Albany location is on a small scale and pedestrian-friendly).

    I think the Solano Avenue Association and all of the merchants in the area need to concentrate on something far more important: the upcoming renovation of the Safeway store at Neilson Street. If Safeway can come up with a pleasant, walkable, store concept for this location it will benefit all of Solano. Unfortunately, I think it will take a lot of pressure to get Safeway to consider walkability in the design of their new building. The current state of affairs with a suburban-style parking lot out front is an insult to the pedestrian friendly environment of the rest of Solano Avenue.

  • Norton

    I would like to make a point that has been overlooked. Although accurate revenue for Goodwill Industries is hard to find, they have over 1900 stores nationwide. This puts them firmly in the realm of big box retailers. And to this point, Goodwill’s logo and storefront reflect the big box look. While Solano Avenue is hardly “quaint” by Northeastern standards, it is visually more restive than other surrounding shopping areas. Goodwill and its big box storefront will be an eyesore, in much the same way as a Walgreens or CVS would . It is an odd choice for Solano Avenue. The last thrift store was a very small company in comparison.
    In addition to being a big box retailer, Goodwill has several arrangements with other big box retailers, for example, Target. Target off-loads damaged and unsaleable merchandise (merchandise that won’t sell even after severe discounting) to Goodwill. While you can’t count on finding anything on a consistent or ongoing basis, as inventory is wholly dependent on whatever is donated at any one time, you can count on finding formaldehyde or melamine streaked products from Target, either unsaleable or pre-broken for your pleasure. To this point, I agree with other comments that a well stocked hardware store would serve the community better.
    Lastly, I would like to point out that the “upscale” shops on Solano have merchandising malaise. I don’t believe their financial struggles are wholly due to price point. The warning I was given when I first arrived, years ago, that Berkeley is “great for food, but you can’t find a decent article of clothing” still holds true. A new purse store opened on Solano filled with very unattractive merchandise. Berkeley consumers may not be the hippest consumers, but they are not blind. A few stores selling beautiful, useful, well designed and responsible products (such as one finds all over San Francisco) would do wonders for Solano Avenue.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Norton – If you want a hardware store on Solano and think it would be a sure-fire hit, go ahead and finance one. Nobody’s stopping you.

    Goodwill is offering to come in and fill some vacant storefronts and bring more shoppers into the area.

    Anyone who thinks that’s a bad idea is being too short-sighted.

  • Maureen Burke

    There used to be a hardware store and a pharmacy in the former Front Row/Dance space.

  • Bruce Love

    Solano and Telegraph seem to have gone through similar but not identical patterns.

    In the 1980s, Telegraph became recognized as one of the most lucrative retail corridors in the nation. It had some of the highest and most (relatively) affluent foot traffic of anywhere around. Big national chains started moving in, driving rents out of the range of many established local businesses. Meanwhile, the University took over more of south side, vacancy decontrol helped drive up rents, student demographics changed … the shopping corridor collapsed. Most big chains left. Rents are hard to lower and that’s when the long term vacancies started. Telegraph went downhill from past glories because just as it was getting good, a retail space real estate bubble got inflated. Then popped.

    Solano seems to have gone down a similar but not identical course. During economic booms it was thought of as a prime retail corridor. Quotas, at that time, helped to preserve reasonable rents and allow traditional neighborhood-serving businesses to thrive. Nevertheless, even within the quotas, real estate bubbles inflated. The amount of traffic and the surrounding demographic’s spending habits changed, leaving the street hanging – a lot like Telegraph.

    Killing the quota system on Solano, or inviting in big chains to speculate, both seem like asking to pile trouble on trouble. If the economy recovers, that will inflate a retail space real estate bubble beyond what is already there, driving away more traditional, neighborhood serving businesses, and leaving the street highly vulnerable to collapse at the next downturn (not to mention sacrificing its “character”). Conversely, absent recovery, a few new restaurants and so on in the short term will help to postpone an apparently needed correction in retail rents.

    @Name says “If you want a hardware store on Solano and think it would be a sure-fire hit, go ahead and finance one. Nobody’s stopping you.”

    I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think if you want a hardware store there, one thing stopping you is that the district’s council member seems to want to kill (or seriously modify) the quota system, meaning that the rent situation is not likely to favor a local-serving business like a modest size hardware store.

  • Name Withheld

    @ Bruce – Even with the quota system in place, rents along Solano are ridiculously high. Most small local businesses can’t afford it already.

  • Bruce Love

    Right, @Name, that’s part of what I’m saying (but not clearly, I guess). We aren’t disagreeing on that point.

    If you read the code that establishes the quota system, one explicit intent was to sharply limit the numbers of businesses in categories that were known to be high renters in order to preserve traditional character and local services. E.g., back then they feared (justifiably, I think) that without quotas, the street would quickly turn into restaurant row and many local serving businesses would be swiftly forced out. No local HW store, no local dry cleaner, whatever.

    That zoning approach works to an extent but as I tried to say above, even under a quota system a real estate bubble can still inflate. (We could look at the how’s of that. The short summary in my opinion is that the quotas don’t and can’t preserve a particular business. So, if a land-lord perceives a chance to raise rent on a low margin business in anticipation of a quota opening, that happens. Quotas slow things down but don’t stop inflating the bubble.).

    It’s a little backwards relative to Telegraph but also very similar. On Telegraph, the big chains were leaders in inflating the bubble, then fled as the downturn started. Here, the bubble got going on its own, the downturn is underway, but now big chains are part of the emerging strategy to try to keep the bubble inflated.

    People are going to have to get really creative about local retail and local manufacturing if they want to escape Berkeley catching up to many other parts of the country in a race to the bottom. I’m very skeptical that restaurants, a nice wine shop, ice cream, and another investment from BP or similar is really going to fix the emerging trends, as pleasant a fantastic picture as that might paint.

  • TN

    My fellow residents of Berkeley are certainly smart and creative!

    Not in a million years would I have thought to use the term “BIG BOX STORE” to describe a Goodwill store. Who knew that Goodwill is just like Walmart and would just ravage local businesses.

    I certainly had no idea of the threat that Goodwill posed to our community.

  • Name Withheld

    Bruce Says “Here, the bubble got going on its own, the downturn is underway, but now big chains are part of the emerging strategy to try to keep the bubble inflated.”

    I don’t think the community & Solano businesses care about “keeping the bubble inflated” – they care about what empty storefronts are doing to their bottom line.

    Berkeley landlords aren’t going to lower rents. Since there is no financial disincentive to leaving a storefront empty, most Berkeley store-owners would rather leave their buildings empty than lower their prices. It’s the same way with the apartment rental business. Back when I was a renter, a full third of the units in my building were empty because the group that owned the building decided they would rather leave the units empty than charge a market rate and risk having their units filled with undesirable tenants that they could never get rid of thanks to Renter’s Rights.

  • Bruce Love

    @Name, You can tell that the Solano business community wants vacancies filled, but not filled with something that they think will make the street less up-scale. (There is disagreement about whether or not Goodwill would make the business less upscale.) It’s in that sense that, along with the landlords, they think some tenants would be worse than vacancies. Among other effects, that means the business community tends to favor tenants that help keep the rent bubble inflated.

  • Name Withheld

    So they want to keep it “up-scale” but then whine about the high price of rent?
    Sorry, but that’s the cost of doing business for “up-scale” shops in an “up-scale” area.

    Trying to have it both ways is idiotic.

  • Bruce Love

    @Name, precisely. Idiotic but also structurally entrenched by many, many factors.

  • Jane Tierney

    The Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA) will hold the next public meeting on March 3rd at 7pm at the Thousand Oaks Baptist Church at Colusa and Catalina. That meeting will feature a discussion re: Council-member Capitelli’s proposal to de-regulate zoning in the Solano Ave. Business District. If you think you know already how TONA thinks, think again. Your ideas and opinions are sought in order to represent the neighborhood’s wishes and address these critical issues. See the newsletter for a historical review of Solano’s zoning and an outline of Capitelli’s proposal.
    See More

  • Valentinne

    Didn’t this same publication recently run an article featuring a small business owner who was not allowed to have a striped awning for her new her ice cream store (also on upper Solano) because the City of Berkeley decided it would not fit in with other upscale businesses?

    Is Goodwill and it’s signage upscale?

    My head hurts.

  • marc weinstein

    One of numerous critical aspects to this story not being mentioned is how Amazon and mail-order in general, has killed many independent retail business’ ability to compete in the 21st century. Numerous unfair advantages have given those internet mail-order stores for MANY YEARS- just to help the net “get a foothold,” or whatever, resulting in, once again, giant publicly-traded mega-corporations knocking all the independents out of existence—> this giant transfer of wealth and power has gone on right in front of us, but, we’ve all been wearing blinders as an excuse not to respond to what we know is wrong, like so many other such “rip-offs” we’ve allowed to happen in this country… now, Solano, like so many sweet retail strips around the country, has a severe imbalace going—> many customers in the neighborhood are shopping online or in true “big-box” stores to save money, or in many instances, to get what was once available in the neighborhood . . . no need for a sweet interaction with a local merchant, apparently . . . then, suddenly, there are 11 vacant storefronts– a property owner needs to get a store filled before she/he loses so much money that they, themselves, might go under . . . a vicious cycle as we all swirl down the toilet into “3rd world” status, thanks to “big business…” OUR ECONOMIC ECOSYSTEM HAS BEEN DESTROYED BY PARTIES THAT SCHEMED UP THE WHOLE THING TO SQUEEZE MORE PROFITS OUT EACH QUARTER.
    I say stop fighting amongst yourselves as the true “powers that be” would have it, recognize that this fight is symptomatic of the times- let Goodwill in & see how it goes- lean times call for a whole new way of looking at things–> burst that hard bubble of illusions you have created & ADMIT that things have changed, almost beyond recognition, and, somehow, move forward recognizing what you all have in common . . . if Berkeley could only do a little more of that, we might see a city that actually refelects the reputation that it has, but often does not deserve, as a truly “progressive” place to live & thrive & help promote positive evolution . . . . .

  • stephanie

    @Jane: is the TONA meeting on March 3rd open to the public? It seems like it is…. I live in North Berkeley, but would like to come. Thank you for posting.

  • Jane Tierney

    Yes, the March 3rd TONA meeting is open to the public. People are welcome and encouraged to attend. Council-member Capitelli will be there also, to answer questions.

  • Jenny Wenk

    Does anyone remember that what’s now a CVS store at Solano and Ramona was once a thrift store? I can’t remember now whether it was run by Goodwill or the Salvation Army but I know I both shopped there and donated to it. The merchants in that block would have the best experience about how a store like this affects other businesses nearby.

  • Jane Tierney

    I remember the Salvation Army in that location, and I frequented there also. That location was good, in that it had/has a large parking lot in back. At the time, there was a semi-trailer body that served as the donation “center,” where personnel opened for donations from 9am to 4pm.

  • I own Solano Kids and I was interviewed for this article. Much to my surprise my name was spelled wrong along with many left out comments I tried to get across. I don’t agree with my fellow merchant who stated, ““We want to bring people back to Solano. But we want to attract upscale customers, and this isn’t the way to do it,”. I do love what the Goodwill mission is and what it does. I love some of their stores and shop there for myself! My 10 and 13 year old love the “vintage” trend and we make a trip out to the Vaness store at least once a month.

    My issue is that I worry about us small recycled guys. Solano Kids has been on Solano for over 5 years but just made the move toward the top of the street. To say a giant Goodwill will not take sales away from privately owned consignment and antique shops is silly. Its going to hurt us big, I only hope my customers feel I give them more. Were not going out of business but I will have to be more creative,maybe sale days or coupon incentive. This is hard for us to do,Goodwill relays on donations and has no markups. I pay cash to local families for items brought in. How will the small recycled shops compete with Goodwill.? Filling in one vacancy may only be a trade off to four business closing down? How would the street benefit from that?

    My biggest issue with Goodwill is the fact that it will be a major drop off site! If their going in is a must, why not ask the city to enforce a no drop off policy? Donations during in store hours only? I understand people will drop off anyway,but if its enforced Goodwill will be made accountable and will keep the storefront clean and tidy. I would ask this of anyone moving in this location,however My argument against Goodwill is,I shop their and know what their store looks like at 8 in the morning. We all should be concerned about this,worries about being to upscale,No, worries of a clean street to walk ,YES!

    I totally disagree with Todd who says?Todd says:

    February 1, 2011 at 7:18 am
    Solano Avenue is not that great. It’s part ghost town. A Goodwill shop is a welcome addition.
    The nimbyism of Carol Fabrietti and Elena Palega is enough for me to boycott their shops. But, oh, wait, in this economy I can’t afford to shop in their shops anyway!

    I think Solano Ave is GREAT! Far from Forth St,but no ghost town. My customers know a bargain,I’m far from upscale as some bloggers have labeled. My shirts are $4-5 and pants $6-7 bucks,so yes Todd you can afford Solano Kids. If you have shopped Goodwill you know their prices are not as low as you think,shirts $3-4 pants $5.99. I pay the public cash for their items and launder every item that comes in! I do put in extra work and I know my customers love that about Solano kids! I argue the opinion that Solano Ave is too upscale for a Goodwill,quite opposite,we have a lot of really great one of a kind shops with different price ranges,and on any given day you can walk in and meet the owner themselves that can know their inventory like the back of there hand! That’s what’s great about Solano Ave!!, Not a big box store with employees that are not vested. Please don’t get the merchants wrong,I know for a fact from talking to fellow merchants on the street that our vibe is not at all nimbyism ,It’s of simple care for the street and community. We don’t HATE the idea of a Goodwill,but lets discuss this further! After all we are all entitled to our opinion!

  • Carol Fabretti

    I think my name has been abused about as much as I can take! Berkeleyside should change their name to “Blindside”. My comments were taken completely out of context during a 15 minute interview. While I defend my opinion that Goodwill doesn’t belong on Solano Avenue, it isn’t for the reasons that they ‘pieced’ together- there is no NIMBYism. You don’t even know me or what contribution I have been making to this avenue for over 22 years. It’s typical of some people with very little accurate information about someone to pass judgement on them, but in this case, it’s so ridiculous. Late last year, our district city council person did a survey of his district as to what they would want for Solano Avenue and no one said they’d like a 6000+ sq ft Goodwill or any business of that size for that matter. They wanted diversity of small retail, outdoor seating for cafes and a more neighborhood atmosphere. Yet everyone pounced on my use of “upscale”! Give me a break! Berkeleyside didn’t even mention the fact that I believe the landlords on this avenue are to blame for the empty storefronts and that we in fact just had our rents go up considerably-even in this recession. We’re trying not to add to the empty storefronts, in spite of the fact that we could just walk away- instead we are trying to be part of positive change on the avenue, listening to customers and bringing in new products. I’m sorry so many people took offense at what you think is my position, but the situation is much more complicated than this article presented and Berkeleyside knows it, which is why they did the article to begin with. And everyone needs to please stop misquoting me. I have been serving this community the best way I know- taking care of my customers no matter what. Goodwill or any single business that wants to get that large of a space on this avenue is not what we need. And the landlord of those spaces isn’t playing on a level playing field by offering the space at half of the current market price! And before Goodwill, he entertained an offer from ‘Dollar Stores’. Is this the vision we have for this community? It’s not mine.

  • Carol and Alaina,

    On behalf of Berkeleyside, I want to apologize for all the comments that seem to blame you for concern about Goodwill on Solano Avenue. We have noticed in recent weeks that our comments section has taken a dark turn with people sometimes checking civility at the door. Our policy is to remove any comments that attack people directly and in the case of this story, the comments have skirted that line. You have been unfairly targeted as I know there are others on the street who also have worries about the Goodwill store for all the reasons stated: it is not upscale, drop-offs may be disruptive, it may squeeze out other consignment and antique stores.

    However, I do not think that the Berkeleyside article was inaccurate or beating the drum of Nimbyism. The merchants concerns are legitimate. I think the commenters to the story brought up what they perceived as the Nimby aspect.

    Carol you expressed this concern about the article: “Berkeleyside didn’t even mention the fact that I believe the landlords on this avenue are to blame for the empty storefronts and that we in fact just had our rents go up considerably-even in this recession. We’re trying not to add to the empty storefronts, in spite of the fact that we could just walk away- instead we are trying to be part of positive change on the avenue, listening to customers and bringing in new products.”

    The article does talk about this but uses a quote from Allen Cain, director of the Solano Avenue Association: “Part of the problem is the continuing high rents in the area, said Cain. Rents run $2 to $5 a square foot, with the average rent on the east end of Solano running at $3 a square foot.
    “That’s ridiculous,” said Cain, who blamed the high rents not on local landlords, but property investment groups and landlords who don’t live nearby. “Downtown San Francisco near Union Square is $5 a square foot, so how can we be charging 75% of (what landlords get) in San Francisco?”

    Alaina. You say about the article: Much to my surprise my name was spelled wrong along with many left out comments I tried to get across. I am sorry I spelled your first name wrong. It has been corrected.

    I did write, though, about your concerns about the unsightliness of the drop offs and the fact that Goodwill might squeeze out smaller competitors.

    I am editing the comment that names and criticizes you directly. Berkeleyside should have done that days ago. It was a judgment error. Please forgive me.

  • Fomer Berkeleyan

    Having grown up there in the era of 1000 Oaks Hardware, Park n Shop, and even Meckels Grocery, I can’t really relate to the “upscale” aspect. Things change; and any store is better than a vacancy. The area is so beautiful that the rents simply aren’t going to come down, so everyone has to make the best of it. Concerns about Goodwill’s impact can be addressed with some good old fashioned mercantile neighborliness.

  • Hello and thank you everyone for your valuable feedback. My name is Allen Cain and I am the Executive Director and Events Manager for the Solano Avenue Association and Stroll. We have two paramount issues on Solano:

    Safeway: A remodeled Safeway will bring jobs; increased revenues to the city, and allows an upgrade to a decaying location that does not completely address the needs of Albany residents, resulting in “leakage” to other markets outside of the area. Safeway is the only “anchor” store Albany has on Solano. They have been on Solano for 80 years and deserve to modify their business, after all – it’s theirs. The flip-side of the coin is competition to existing Solano Avenue merchants and increased traffic (the concern of the neighbors).

    Goodwill: Here is an organization that will mean increased revenues to the city; gives jobs to the marginally employable (and locals); offers something to the teens looking for vintage clothing (which is “in”); appeals to bargain hunters; and will fill a major vacancy on Solano Avenue – not to mention the whole re-use / recycling factor. Goodwill has a strange effect when you mention their name. We will remind you that there are Goodwill stores on “Melrose Place” in Los Angeles and “Beverly Boulevard” in Beverly Hills. On the other hand they sell clothing that represents direct competition with five [plus] businesses within a one/two block vicinity.

    We will be sending out volunteers to “poll” the Avenue (particularly our 250 business membership) over the next couple of weeks – the official position that we take will be directly influenced by the will of our district via the results of our “polling”. Thank you again and the Association and its fifteen member volunteer Board of Directors welcomes your input. Allen Cain

  • Name Withheld

    Improvements in that Safeway would be delightful.

    If they could remodel it to make it as nice as the newly remodeled Safeway in Alameda it would be a much better fit with the other stores on Solano, and better serve the neighboring community.

  • Jane Tierney

    From what I’ve heard, everyone wants a Safeway store remodel on Solano (Albany.) The main concern of neighbors, that I’ve heard so far, has been centered around parking and congestion, due to the plan to add apartments upstairs and other Safeway “stores” within the site, such as bakery, etc. I think people like the improvements in the store, but don’t want a several story behemoth that pushes out to the sidewalk. If it would step back on the second floor, for example, I think folks would accept it more. Like the Trader Joe’s on University, or the West Berkeley Bowl, I think people can adjust to inside parking. But, unlike the Trader Joe’s, I don’t think people are keen on adding several stories of apartments. It’s the additional usage that will bring a denser traffic to that intersection that people are concerned about. I’m only repeating what I’ve heard, so don’t kill the messenger.

  • Understood; also did not mean to imply that Safeway and Goodwill represent Solano Avenue’s only two challenges. Our [behind the scenes] issues are significant in numbers and magnitude; particularly our 50,000 feet of street-wide vacancies. Unsure about the re-zoning issues. Solano Avenue still represents an unmatched array of independently owned businesses and a very special place to all of us. The Solano Avenue Association is thankful that there are individuals and organizations (like TONA) who care and volunteer their time for this struggling district. Allen Cain

  • [Also] want to shout out to the administrators of Berkeleyside for ironing-out the Solano Kids / Ideas for Elements scenario; that was handled professionally and displayed a solid commitment to being balanced. Thank you – Solano Avenue

  • East Bay Resident

    I am amazed at the merchant attitude along Solano Avenue…

    Welcome ANY business to your Avenue that will increase foot traffic and bring NEW and REPEAT customers to Solano Avenue…work together to find a solution for all…

    I used to enjoy shopping on Solano Avenue – but found the attitude of the merchants reflected much of what was quoted in this article – ENTITLEMENT. It astounds me that these “struggling” merchants are not trying to work in partnership with The Goodwill to create a WIN-WIN for all.

    It takes more than an annual avenue stroll to reach your core area and give potential New and Repeat Customers a Good reason to drive to your establishment on a regular basis and spend their hard earned money,,,, Feeling welcomed and receiving quality service with value is WHY customers return to an establishment.

    Your attempts at creating an Exclusive – Upscale Avenue for shopping have failed, and you can blame it on the economy – the demographics – high rents – – -a crappy Safeway – whatever you wish… the reality is this:

    The Solano avenue core area is affluent
    These affluent homeowner’s and professionals – families – etc. will visit Solano Avenue to RESPONSIBLY (to receive their tax receipt) make their donations to the Goodwill this will result in:

    Increased foot traffic for all businesses along Solano (give them a reason to shop at YOUR store!!)
    NEW AND REPEAT CUSTOMERS – Shoppers regularly visiting The Goodwill Store (and they are the Upscale Shoppers), you would be surprised WHO shops at these great places in search of vintage clothing and/or to find a good deal.
    New jobs for those who badly need them
    Increased tax revenue
    2 LESS vacant store fronts along a street that resembles an old western ghost town…

    Is it Okay to shop at Costco for your store and business supplies? – after all you are a small business owner, right? You cannot be faulted for wanting to run your business in the most cost effective way possible and buying in bulk at Costco is the method for most.. What gets me is the double standard – and the NIMBYism of the merchants along Solano Avenue. Costco is Okay because it is down the freeway, in someone else’s back yard and not in direct competition with your business. This is a double standard. We are all surviving – and this is one way to cost effectively run a business..but you cannot have it both ways. It is a Goodwill – not a Best Buy or Target….or Walmart…

    If the rents along Solano Avenue are too high and you cannot afford them, relocate your business, if it is an economic burden that you cannot overcome, close your business and attempt to get a job. If you have to lay off emloyees (like 80% of the small businesses across the country), then do so – YOU ARE NOT ALONE….The best case scenerio is that you can revise your business plan and strategy to enable you to do whatever you need to do to put food on your table.

    On another note: the business owner who described your hardships owning a small business, my heart goes out to you. But you seem to forget that California’s unemplyment rate is 12.3% AND it will take YEARS for it to leave double digits. Perhaps you and those who are the Upscale Merchants have lost touch with the fact that 12.3 people out of 100 are UNEMPLOYED and are barely making it. The fact that you can pay your business rent with a credit card is a luxury – thousands of people CANNOT pay their rent to keep a ROOF OVER THEIR HEADS……and have NO credit left to purchase health insurance, medicine OR food.

    The merchant attitudes expressed in this article have left a bitter taste in the mouths of those who will one day, have the financial means to DECIDE if they will ever patronize your small business. I prefer to give my hard earned money to those merchants who share my sense of humility and responsible gratitude to be able to shop for books to own, afford a latte, take a Yoga class or treat my family to a meal out – not those who deem themselves Entitled becuase they have labeled themselves “Upscale”… and rented a space on Solano Avenue in Berkeley.

    I only hope that you see this as an opportunity to reach out to The Goodwill and create a WIn-WIn for all. There are no victims, only volunteers.

  • Daniel M.

    The San Francisco Chronicle has a similar story about this in their paper today.

  • Concerning the (potential) Goodwill Store at 1831 Solano Avenue, The Solano Avenue Association has decided, after polling the Berkeley merchants, that feelings are mixed and that the Association will remain neutral.

    The Solano Avenue Association has 250 members on the Avenue and is best known for our annual community event in September, the Solano Avenue Stroll. Solano Avenue offers an unmatched array of shopping, dining, and professional services. Nowhere will you find a more concentrated collection of independently owned businesses, with owners around the globe.

    We invite you to come visit us and see for yourself what makes Solano Avenue such a special place for those who live and work here. We welcome your comments –